When you’re feeling stressed out, you can pay a licensed professional to help you sort through whatever’s going on. But when your skin’s stressed it’s left to marinate in cortisol, the fight-or-flight stress hormone that, in excess, leaves your face more susceptible to redness, dryness, and breakouts. Krave’s creamy serum is here with support. It has everything a compromised skin barrier needs to feel comfortable (ceramides, fatty acids, sterols...you get the gist). And while therapy can take years, this stuff works in just a few weeks.
Mac and cheese; Biden and Harris; sanitizer and hand lotion. Are they good on their own? Of course! But synergistically, the duo is better than either one alone. In German that’s called gestalt—in skincare it’s Bolden’s powerhouse Brightening Moisturizer, which brings together two ingredients clinically proven to excel in tandem. Reef-safe chemical filters block harmful UVA and UVB rays while antioxidants (vitamins C and E, plus ferulic acid via bran extract) neutralize free radicals from the sun, screens, and pollution. It’s one step to protection that never leaves you ghostly.
Clay masks are a dime a dozen! Perhaps the reason for their ubiquity is that they’re just so simple—you can even make your own at home. But not Supreme Seed. Klur founder and aesthetician Lesley Thornton started with kaolin clay, a superfine white powder used to make porcelain, then addressed angry skin from all angles. This mask has everything: anti-inflammatories, antibacterials, antioxidants... Sure, it leaves the oily less oily, but dry and combo skin types can reap the benefits too. And boy, are there plenty.
The kitchen sink serum: hyaluronic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, retinol, vitamin C, and peptides abound. That [founder] Tina Craig really knows her stuff, because despite being chock-full of potent actives, Resurfacing Compound goes heavy on smoothing out skin but way low (read: nonexistent) on irritation. In fact, Craig recommends a 2-week, twice daily introduction to the serum to get you going, before tapering off to once daily in the long term. And what do you get for all that work? Freakishly firm skin that’s even texturally and tonally. The acids produce an immediate effect, and the retinols, antioxidants, and peptides build stronger, healthier skin overtime.
Time and time again, skincare researchers have found that a form of vitamin C called L-ascorbic acid reigns supreme over all the others. The thing is, it’s notoriously fickle. Expose L-ascorbic to light and air, and it quickly degrades into amber-colored useless juice. But encapsulate it in a patented delivery system, bolster it with a penetration enhancer, and bottle it up in an airless pump? Now it’s good to go for at least two months. The solution took a veteran chemist, convinced to put it on the market by impressive clinicals. It was too good not to share.
Topicals’ Faded seems to have pulled off the most impressive heist since The Thomas Crown Affair. The job? Fading stubborn marks of hyperpigmentation. The crew? The best in the biz—tranexamic, azelaic, and kojic acids, licorice root, niacinamide, and alpha-arbutin. The catch? These powerful ingredients need to tread lightly, as any move too aggressive is a fast track to more spots. With every great heist comes a twist, and Topicals’ is a bevy of skin soothers that keep watch for irritation. You won’t notice it’s working, until it’s too late.
Let’s pour one out for the breakouts of 2020. Like the murder hornets that haunted our nightmares, this year’s zits were supercharged. A difficult to treat combo of stress, humidity, and friction led to “maskne” that seemed to become more inflamed no matter what you did. That is, unless you had Allies of Skin’s Multi Nutrient Cream on hand. It treats breakouts gently (with niacinamide and UMF17+ manuka honey), moisturizes lightly, and minimizes redness overnight. With the same slightly acidic pH as your skin, this cream guides you back to balanced.
These are, truly, the most invisible pimple patches on the market. Rael’s design improves upon those of yore twofold: a matte, blurring finish, and a super thin outer ring that blends seamlessly into skin. You won’t notice them over Zoom, they’re barely detectable in person, and even making out their outlines in the photo above is a strain. You might even lose one on your own face overnight. (Unlike with concealer, falling asleep in a pimple patch is actually a good thing.) And soon enough, poof! The spot underneath will vanish, too.
When Deepica Mutyala demonstrated how red lipstick could brighten and camouflage deep blue-green undereyes on brown complexions, her video received over 10 million views. She created Live Tinted’s three original Huestick shades, Origin, Rise, and Perk after years of waiting for a less DIY solution. They can be used anywhere, but are specifically formulated for the delicate, milia-prone skin under the eyes. (Eye-safe and ophthalmologist tested, too.) Sometimes the best way to get what you want really is just to do it yourself.
If Nars’ Orgasm was the “universally flattering” blush of the early aughts, then Mented’s Peach for the Stars is its 2020 update. But warmer and more pigmented. It’s the ultimate “look alive” shade that lasts all day! A touch of vitamin E in the formula promotes a melt-on-your-cheeks-glow finish, and three other available shades serve to round out your blush wardrobe (the perfect number, really—who needs more than four blushes?). Whet your appetite with the peach, and then work your way up the color ladder.
There’s one tool in every makeup artist’s kit that never makes it into product roundups: light. The best artists can manipulate light (reflect it, subdue it, conjure it out of thin air) like pushing pigment with a brush. And Danessa Myricks’ Dew Wet Balm does for light what mitts did for outfielders. The clear shade brings natural radiance to bare skin, while the mica-sprayed versions are particularly helpful for camouflaging crow’s feet. It’s all by virtue of a thin, glassy finish—not sticky, not overly editorial, and just shiny enough to glow.
Gabriela Hernandez’s fascination with red lipstick began as a child growing up in Argentina, and evolved into her career as a cosmetics historian. (It was only so long before collecting and researching lipstick begot making it.) Each creamy, pigmented bullet is titled for the year it was inspired by, which makes nailing ‘70s ease or ‘40s glamour foolproof. Some shades are even exact reproductions of vintage ones, possible because of Hernandez’ vast archive. Hollywood MUAs are fans, too—if you saw and loved a red lip on TV this year, it was probably Bésame.
One day, with grandchildren gathered round, we’ll tell tales of the early 21st century. No one will believe that lip gloss used to be such a sticky, gloopy mess! For a glimpse into the future right now, look to Tower 28’s lip jellies. They yield an (impressively juicy) patent finish free of frosted pigments that makes gloss look dated. Apricot kernel, avocado, rosehip, and raspberry seed oils bolster every swipe with cushiony moisture previously reserved just balms. Plus, no tacky finish! They’re the only glosses you’ll need, in the only shades you’d want.
For all the scalps that have long been neglected or led astray in the haircare game, here’s your saving grace. Scalp care, by way of skincare! Venn’s Synbiotic Polyamine Shampoo does all the complicated work of finding balance—its low pH plus a combination of pre and probiotics recalibrate even the most finicky of scalp microbiomes. Oily scalps? Dry scalps? Tender-to-the-touch scalps? All made healthier and happier, with a few gently cleansing, conditioning, aromatic pumps.
Ever try preparing dinner for two picky children? You wish you could just feed them the same thing, but one hates vegetables and the other’s a vegetarian. Haircare is like that, too. Adwoa’s solution: load up a hydrating mask with scalp-stimulating mint oils alongside nourishing ones like coconut, baobab, and prickly pear seed. While the latter group gets to work repairing damaged strands, the former clarifies the scalp. (For once, the tingly sensation really does mean it’s working.) And after a rinse, both lengths and roots are happier.
Leave-in hair treatments—there are a million of them! And lot of them are so bad. Too heavy, not hydrating enough, impressively stinky. But fear not, dear reader, the intrepid triers-on at ITG bring to you the Goldilocks of hair creams. Made mostly from aloe, the cream is super light like a face lotion, but moisturizing thanks to coconut oil (we’re cool with him again). It doesn’t leave buildup, so no need to worry about a flaky scalp. But maybe the feather on its cap is that the moisturizing treatment lasts for days on end. Yeah, it says “daily” right there on the bottle, but you can always take it slow.
The best iteration of the comb since the stone age, hands down. The genius is in the flexible teeth, which splay out like long plastic fingers when combing through hair. That way, the comb conforms to the hair (and not the other way around), leading to fewer snapped ends and less pulling overall. It’s kind of like wearing leggings versus jeans—more comfortable and forgiving. Curly, wavy, textured hair will especially benefit from this design, but even straight hair can take this on. Let’s face it, we were overdue for a comb evolution anyway—after all wasn’t the first one invented before mirrors?
Rome didn’t fall in a day, and neither should your hair—it better last at least three, with all the effort spent making it look just so. But when stretching a style, you’ve got to address your scalp. Root Refresh uses oil-absorbing micellar water and antibacterial ACV, which cuts through buildup without leeching shine. It actually cleans, unlike dry shampoo. (You’d never dust your cheeks in powder before bed, right?) Folks with curly hair can use it, folks with protective styles can use it, and if you help it out with a blowdryer, it even works wonders on fine, straight hair.
This tool turns any at-home masseuse who wields it into a pro. The only prerequisite? A mug of water, heated in the microwave. Fill up your massager and the tourmaline-glazed bottom warms, emitting far-infrared heat. Then twist the tool around tight muscles (or in place of a facial gua sha) and the warmth and knuckle-like nubs untie even the slipperiest knots. No wires, clean up, complex choreo, or budgeting. Just 30 gloriously hot minutes where you’ll actually enjoy doing something that’s good for your body. Your tech-neck says thanks in advance.
The razor aisle? Let’s call that place what it is: a brainwash tunnel. First they want you to believe that women’s body hair needs special pink tools. And then they try to say that every month you need a whole new replacement blade? The truth is, you only need one razor. Forever. Invest $75 in Oui The People’s take on a safety razor now, and it’ll make up its cost in replacement heads in under a year. Then it keeps lasting, and lasting… with fewer ingrowns and less plastic waste to boot. If you want it pink (pink gold, that is), there’s no extra charge.
Body oils feel inherently luxurious, but the best ones teeter between pure indulgence and practicality. Take Elixa, for example. The non-fussy press-to-open cap, 8oz bottle, and quick-absorbing oils make it suitable for everyday use. (So does its under $30 price tag.) But the chic, minimalist packaging looks far more expensive than it is, and inside you’ll find camelina oil, a rich source of anti-inflammatory fatty acids that’s usually reserved for face products. Rave reviews cite soothed eczema and fewer keratosis pilaris bumps with regular use.
Look, we wouldn’t blame you for buying Mischo polishes for the packaging alone. But if you’ve ever stood, dumbfounded and indecisive, in front of a nail polish display you should know—this stuff is the antidote. The range of edited shades includes every color you need and not a bottle more: the perfect vampy red, the perfect sheer pink, the perfect neutral beige. That, along with the fact that it’s vegan, cruelty-free, and safe to use with the bathroom door closed, makes choosing a color the easiest decision you’ll make all day.
Founder Alia Raza chalks her love of white florals up to her Pakistani parents, who brought the region’s tropical plants into their stateside home. And while all of Régime’s eau de parfums get our hearts racing quicker, Gold Leaves feels most special. Heady lily and traditional iris are joined by pittosporum, a small, extremely fragrant flower halfway between jasmine and orange blossom. Its citrusy undercurrent completely transforms what a white floral fragrance can smell like: intoxicating and sexy, but also crisp and nuanced.
What we call shopping sustainably now used to be a baseline expectation. And this candle hearkens back to a time when you didn’t just throw stuff away—a product’s packaging was beautiful, well-made, and meant to last. Choose your favorite one-of-a-kind vessel (an objet in marble, rose quartz, or onyx) and mix-and-matchable scent. Then, once it’s burned through, buy package-free wax pillars to drop inside its metal lining and start all over again. The fact that it’s pretty is obvious; that each fragrance successfully fills a room is just an added bonus.
Looking for more recommendations? Explore last year's list here.
Photographed by Alexandra Genova.